Activated Charcoal Teeth Whitening – Is It Effective?


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Dr Sukanya Goswami
Sukanya has done BDS. She is a dentist, a blogger, an extrovert, and a travel enthusiast. She is also a spiritual believer. When she is not working, you can find her reading books.

Today, of you browse your social media feed, you will notice the growing trend of tooth whitening with a black foamy substance that is certainly compelling. This substance is nothing but charcoal products. Charcoal is one of the most trending tooth whitening products among the current generation. It is typically a fine-grained powder made from wood, coconut shells, and natural substances such as olive pits and peat.

The charcoal powder is then oxidized under extreme heat to turn it into its activated form. Activated charcoal is highly porous and adsorbent. It naturally binds the toxins and odors rather than absorbing them. Moreover, it helps to provide a clean and hygienic environment.

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Activated charcoal is popularly used in powder or paste form to clean and whiten the teeth. However, like any other tooth whitening product, activated charcoal has its pros and cons. Let’s read this article and find out the effectiveness of tooth whitening with activated charcoal. Moreover, we will look at the benefits and disadvantages of this product.

What is charcoal tooth whitening?

There is a wide range of toothpaste in the market that contain activated charcoal as one of the key ingredients. All of these products claim to remove coffee stains, wine stains, and dental plaque. Charcoal is a fine-grained black powder made from coconut shells, wood, olive pits, and peat. The grounded powder is oxidized under extreme heat to activate the mixture. As the charcoal gets activated, it becomes more porous and adsorbent. (1)

Such properties allow the powder particles to efficiently bind the toxins and odors and remove them from the tooth surface. Activated charcoal is typically used in the form of a tooth powder or infused in a toothpaste.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of using charcoal for tooth whitening?

Some of the benefits of using charcoal toothpaste are as follows –

  • It effectively removes the stains from the tooth surface
  • It absorbs the odors in the mouth and provides a fresh breath (2)
  • In some cases, charcoal products help to prevent staining occasionally after a professional tooth cleaning
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Although it is beneficial for tooth whitening, charcoal also has its own set of disadvantages that are listed as follows –

  • It may lead to enamel erosion(3)
  • It may not be effective in removing intrinsic stains
  • Daily use of activated charcoal may lead to tooth sensitivity
  • Its long-term effects and safety are still questionable

Is charcoal toothpaste safe to use?

A review study reveals that dentists must advise their patients to be cautious while using activated charcoal products. This is because activated charcoal is said to have high abrasive nature. The American Dental Association (ADA) states that the rough nature of the charcoal might wear down the tooth enamel aggressively. (4)

Some of the safety concerns of charcoal dental products are as follows –

  • Most charcoal products do not contain fluoride. Therefore, these products might not provide anticaries property. Fluoride is typically used in toothpaste to strengthen the tooth enamel and prevent cavity formation.
  • Some charcoal tooth whitening products may cause tooth staining due to entrapment in the cracks or crevices of older teeth. (5)
  • Charcoal’s effect on dental restoration is not well known. In some cases, the particles of charcoal may build up between the veneers, bridges, and crowns, leaving a black or grey outline.

What are the precautions for using activated charcoal?

It is essential to stay updated with the current trending dental products and weigh the risks and benefits to protect your teeth.

  • The American Dental Association recommends choosing a toothpaste that has a relative dentin abrasivity of around 250 or less.
  • It is best to use tooth whitening pastes, especially that contain charcoal for a short period of time. Moreover, alternate the use of such products with fluoride toothpaste.
  • The abrasiveness of the toothpaste can be reduced by applying the charcoal toothpaste with a finger instead of a toothbrush.
  • Consult a dentist to choose the best dental product for tooth whitening.

What are the alternative methods of tooth whitening?

There are many other safe ways of tooth whitening that you can use –

  • Baking soda is a natural tooth whitening agent that is used in toothpaste. Moreover, you can make your paste at home by mixing baking soda in water.
  • Diluted hydrogen peroxide toothpaste is another quick alternative that effectively whitens the teeth and also provides fresh breath. (6)
  • Many ADA approved tooth whitening products such as gels, strips, and pens are available in the market. The best way is to consult your dentist and choose a product that suits your dental needs.

Take away message

Charcoal is a natural powder that is made from wood, coconut shells, olive pits, and peats. It is oxidized under extreme heat to activate the ingredients and make it more porous and adsorbent. One of the most useful properties of activated charcoal is to bind the tooth stains and toxins from odor. This way, it provides a clean, white smile and a fresh breath.

Activated charcoal is used in the form of a tooth powder or paste. However, besides its beneficial whitening properties, it is not recommended by ADA for long term use. The reason being the highly abrasive nature of the charcoal, which causes enamel erosion and tooth sensitivity.

It is best to always take precautions before selecting a tooth whitening product that contains activated charcoal. Additionally, consult your dentist to understand your dental needs.

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